As part of our drive to get more hardware going for projects that help move OSM forward in the US, I’ve asked community members to write about their experiences. The first to respond was Lars Ahlzen of TopOSM. Please visit our donation page to give towards our hardware fund.

TopOSM is a project that aims to create a complete, high quality, online topographic map – with hillshading, contour lines and detailed cartographic features – based on OpenStreetMap data.

The map is currently used for such diverse applications as outdoors and recreational planning, displaying amateur radio stations and in mobile applications for aviation.

The initial version featured the state of Massachusetts, using free data from MassGIS to provide elevation. More recently, the project was expanded to cover the entire contiguous United States, using additional data from USGS.

Like most online maps, TopOSM is pre-rendered in tiles. Because an explicit goal for the TopOSM project has been to create as high quality a map as possible, the rendering process is computationally expensive (read: slow). As a consequence, with the hardware that is currently available to the project, we simply cannot render the higher (more
detailed) zoom levels of the map, which limits its usefulness. We also cannot re-render map tiles as frequently as we would like when data in OpenStreetMap is updated.

With additional hardware resources, we could provide both a much more detailed map with additional zoom levels, and near real-time updates as new features are put on the map. Furthermore, given enough resources, we would be able to provide a worldwide map – one of project’s most frequent requests. Any contributions to the project would be greatly appreciated and will have a very direct effect on the usefulness of TopOSM and the project’s future.

Browse the map at: http://toposm.com/
Examples, more info and technical details at: http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/TopOSM

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